Breakfast with Champions

WFIM holds an annual “Academy Roundtable” where our members and guests have the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by industry leaders. This year’s Academy theme was “Breakfast with Champions”.  After networking and having a wonderful omelet breakfast made fresh in front of us by the International Center’s chefs, we got down to business.  In three intimate round table sessions, we had the opportunity to meet with the leaders to discuss the importance of Trust, Responsibility and Positivity for success.

Our 2014 Champions:


Sharon Beals, V.P. Food Safety, QA & Technical Services, Maple Leaf Foods

Isabelle Hemond, Director, Food Category Management, Starbucks Coffee Canada

Joanne Hillion, Vice President Sales, Food Division, Mars Canada Inc.

Anna Janes, President & Founder, Cocomira Confections Inc.

Rosanne Longo, Spokesperson and Brand Ambassador, Longo’s

Nadja Piatka, President & CEO, Nadja Foods

Maureen Taylor, President, The Ingredient Company

Ursula Wydymus, Director of Operations, Contract Manufacturing, Nestle Canada Inc.

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Our 2014 Champions with WFIM’s Chair, Nancy Klassen, and the Academy Co-Chairs Nadine Farran-Gatti and Mary Jezerinac.


Round One: TRUST


According to the 2013 Edelman Barometer of Trust, less than 1/5 of the general public believes that a business leader can be trusted to tell the truth or make an ethical decision.


People tend to trust two groups of people:

  1. Experts and Analysts
  2. Colleagues and Peers


Rosanne Longo shared that “the values of honesty, trustworthiness and mutual respect are the values that our founders built the business on and have remained the foundation of how we do business. As it is engrained in our DNA and such a significant part of the culture at Longo’s, our leadership styles and characteristics include: leading by example, living the values and walking the talk and continuing to treat people the way we want to be treated whether you are a team member, a customer or a vendor or community partner.”

Sharon Beals agreed, and shared that “communication, integrity and knowledge drive trust, and that core values should be honesty by demonstrating, and practicing what you preach”.

Anna Janes discussed how building collaborative relationships with vendors, suppliers, and consumers helps leaders gain trust. A familiar face that ensures two-way communication – even through social media – is a trustworthy one.



From the book titled The Law of Success, “No one may become a real leader in any walk of life without practicing the habit of doing more work and better work than that for which [she] is paid.” Being able to start something and follow through until it is completed is a key to long-term success.

Nadja Piatka shared her story of responsibility to her family when she was a single mother hiding under the table from the debt collectors. She knew she had to get up from under it, and she knew she had to work smart to get there.  She did, starting her company in her kitchen, and turning it into a multi-million dollar company that is now a supplier to international food companies such as Subway and McDonald’s.

Sharon Beals motto is”trust but verify” – let people do their work, and hold them accountable for it. That’s what makes a responsible leader.

The best advice Rosanne Longo has on this front was left by her late Uncle Tommy, one of the 3 founders of Longo’s. He lived and preached the words “Always do the right thing…especially when no one is looking.”



Negative thoughts result in average performance.


A great percentage of successful people have all experienced some sort of setback or failure. Instead of stopping their journey at this point of difficulty or failure, they adapted a positive mental attitude about themselves and their abilities, which gave them the power to move forward and reach their goals.

Sharon Beals shared that she is inspired by people who are committed to life-long learning, and people who overcome adversity. This inspiration helps to keep her positive outlook.


Isabelle Hemond discussed what our triggers are for negativity, how to identify them, and how to overcome them. Having a family member or colleague willing and able to help you identify those triggers can be a great resource to help you remain positive.


For herself and her role, Rosanne Longo hopes that she inspires the people around her by remaining positive despite challenges, remaining grateful every day for the all the good that we have and to look at any challenges as opportunities and find the silver lining, no matter how small.




Gaining the trust of your employees, customers, vendors and suppliers, while taking the responsibility and being accountable, and maintaining a positive outlook are all keys to successful leadership.

Special thanks to Nadine & Mary, and all of the volunteers who helped execute an amazing, inspirational event!


“Before you are a leader,

success is all about growing yourself.

When you become a leader,

success is about growing others.”

– Jack Welch




Excelerate Excellence

I  recently attended the HRPA annual conference, and, as always, came back inspired.  Here are a few insights from several of the great key note speakers that presented.

Excelerate excellence:  both personally & professionally.  Everything is going at a faster rate to get to where we want to go, and when we excelerate, we can then go even further.   Leadership, culture and employee engagement were expressed as means to excelerate our organizations.

Author Dan Pontefract spoke of the “Flat Army”.  In Latin, the word “arma” represents a flotilla of vessels moving together.  “Flat” is a level surface.  Think about that in an organization:  not a hirerarchy or collection of silos, but an engaged workforce that can get out of the trenches and work together. Employee engagement is reciprocal trust between the employee and leadership, to do what’s right, however, whenever, and with whomever.

He has developed a participative leadership framework, one that is authentic, reciprocal, educating, and continuous (acronym:  CARE).  And his leadership philosophy ensures a fair process through engagement, exploring options, explaining, executing, and evaluating.

Vanessa Judelman, of Mosaic People Development, focused on how to bridge the generational gap for a more productive workplace.  Leaders need to understand what from the past is still valuable, and what has changed.  And then determine how to put those together in a new business model to create a value proposition for the brand new world of work and all the generations that are working in it, to keep everyone engaged and productive.

Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard and Anne Dranitsaris discussed fearlessness.  Every employee and leader has a fear.  To engage with that fear and take action is courage.  Their program “Striving Styles” adds emotional intelligence to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Knowing and understanding the predominant needs of your personality type will allow you to attend the fear, engage it, and get over it, allowing you to be a productive employee/leader.

In an organization, change and transition can lead to a culture of fear.  Leaders need to engage the whole person, address the fears, and provide for emotional security to get their organization to a place of fearlessness.

Geoff Colvin asked “What separates world class performers from everybody else?  Where does great performance really come from?”   In a global labour market, standards are rising, and demands are increasing.  Organizations have to be world class innovators to meet the demands.

Poor innovation is an organizational issue, not an individual issue.  Great performers at innovation get better /great in the same way everybody else does.  It is not hard work, having a massive IQ/memory or innate talent that make world class performers.  It is “deliberate practice”.  Lifetime hours of practice that is designed specifically for each person, that pushes you just beyond your current abilities, that can be repeated a lot, and includes continual feedback.

Applying the principles of great performance and deliberate practice in leadership development means that tomorrow’s leaders are always being stretched and grown – pushed just beyond their abilities.  Great performance is not limited to a preordained few.  It is available to everyone, and every organization.

Levity is another way to gain employee engagement.  Scott Christopher shared his philosophy on developing a culture of levity (humour) to the workplace.  Levity includes the concepts of:

  • Latitude (allowing others the flexibility & freedom to add their own personality to their work),
  • Attitude (what you bring to the table), and
  • Gratitude (expressing thanks in some fashion – and more than just a paycheque)

Using levity will engage your employees, give them pride with where they work and who they work with, and will develop team loyalty faster.

Finally, organizations should be like Canadian Geese:  collaboration is a behavior, there is a lot of communication (honking!), and leadership is shared.  Employee engagement is critical.